In Step with Projects

In Pace with Progress

Six Qualities for a Successful PMO Manager


Author: Kenneth Martin     Source:
Becoming a successful PMO manager requires a broad set of skills apart from having a solid background in project management. The depth of each skill required will depend on the readiness of the organisation for a centralised PMO function.

These SIX qualities are not in oder of priority.


A successful PMO leader needs to be able to sell to senior management and other levels of the organisation about the benefits of a PMO and the value it will bring to an organisation with portfolio management and standard project management processes and procedures. This will require a PMO leader to have excellent communication and presentation skills to communicate what the PMO is, where it is going and the organisational value it will bring.

A PMO Manager needs to be able to tailor and present their ideas to different audiences to gain their buy-in and support for a PMO function.

A result of being a good sales person and communicator is the PMO leader will recruit sponsorship and support for the PMO from senior management and the business which is a critical success factor for a PMO continuity.


It goes without saying that a PMO Manager has to be a strong leader with excellent organisational skills and a ” Rhino skin” to handle criticism well which inevitably comes with being a PMO leader.

PMO’s to quote a popular expression are often between “a rock and hard place” in terms of managing conflicting priorities, project portfolios and meeting all the changing requirements of senior management and the business.

When problems do arise as they will inevitably will  “usually on a daily basis”, a PMO Manager needs to be decisive, be confident to take difficult decisions and will need to decide what to do and take the right actions at the right time with the right people.

A PMO Manager ensures the PMO is set up for success with having well-defined and achievable goals and objectives aligned with the organisation.

In addition, the PMO will have to be organised and managed well to meet the daily priorities of managing  and reporting on a portfolio of projects.

Other characteristics of strong leaders are they are often well prepared, they are good problem solvers, they lead by example and by being seen a as a people person, they motivate their staff to be their best in their respective functions within the PMO.

A successful PMO Manager mentors their staff on the balance of business needs and the adherence to consistent processes and that any bureaucracy should be of value and kept to a minimum.

Whether directly or indirectly depending on the organisation, a successful PMO Manager should provide leadership for the project managers, treat them as valuable stakeholders and ensure that the PMO is focused on adding value on making them and their projects successful.


Another quality which is a critical success factor is that a PMO Manager has a good business sense and  is aligned with business priorities with strategic and organisational goals.

Also that he can communicate with business people in their “business language” and align the PMO services with the needs of the business.

On a strategic level, they should be aware of all key business strategies so they have a big picture view of where the business is now and where it wants to go and how the PMO can help the business achieve their goals and move forward to the future.

The PMO needs to be viewed as supporting the business strategy and goals.

Company politics can play  a major part in most organisations impacting decisions and opinions so PMO’s leaders need to have good peripheral vision so they can navigate these power struggles successfully.


Risk management is an area that is often neglected and paid lip service by some stakeholders and project managers and it is imperative that a PMO when reviewing new programmes and projects perform a detailed risk assessment of potential risks including any initial assumptions and dependencies.

Performing a risk assessment on the PMO is a good leadership practice so any potential risks for the PMO can be mitigated going forwards.


With constant changing needs within an organisation and the adoption of new project methodologies and technologies, it is crucial a PMO leader demonstrates flexibility into adapting these new changes.

Existing waterfall PMO’s have struggled with the increasing adoption of Agile and other project methodologies within organisations and this is often a test of the flexibility and adaptability of the PMO function.


Even with all these other good leadership qualities, if a PMO does not provide visible value, its future could be uncertain. PMO’s  need to have meaningful visibility with metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) that are aligned with the business.

One area that is undeveloped in many organisations is the measurement and realisation of benefits which would be very visible value for a PMO Manager.


A successful PMO Manager will:

Deliver results in a consistent manner with agreed project methodologies and governance
Will be a strong leader for his team and project managers
Will ensure the PMO is visible with the right metrics, KPI’s and business benefits
Have good relationships at all levels of the organisation
Will be seen as supportive of business needs and strategy

Hopefully I have captured many of the characteristics required for a successful PMO Manager which is a very demanding role that requires the characteristics of a senior management role.

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